Fanfiction, slash, and I. An attempt at self-meta

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Title: Fanfiction, slash, and I. An attempt at self-meta
Creator: mazaher
Date(s): May 3, 2011
Medium: a PDF posted online
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Fanfiction, slash, and I. An attempt at self-meta is a 2011 essay by mazaher.

For other essays on this topic in context, see Timeline of Slash Meta.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

I began writing fanfiction by and for myself in the early ’80, at a time when I had no idea fanfiction communities even existed, either online or otherwise. I was moved by identification with male characters in original stories or films: lonely people who were hurt and lacked comfort in the original stories. I mainly wrote in the missing comfort. At some point, I got access to the web. I discovered then that what I believed was a quirk of mine happened to be instead a wide community endeavor, and at times a team sport. To say I was happy with the discovery is an understatement. I firmly believe that works of literature (and art, for that matter) are not only a blessing and food for the soul, but also by nature as fertile as any living being. Having more good stories to read gave me more ideas for my own writings, which was (and is) absolutely lovely. Slash, which I met early on in my explorations of online fanfiction and original, independent literature, opened up to me the chance to further expand those same dynamics which already touched me personally, and include the area of sexual relationships. I was thus able to provide the lonely character on which I had been focusing with a mirror, a companion, and a peer. Now I was not merely saving the character’s life (and my own as a consequence): I was dealing with built-in C for the H, so to speak, and I was giving the characters (again, as well as myself, within the boundaries of my identification) a meaningful love life.
... it should not be surprising that my online persona and behavior are not obviously gendered, aged, or sexually orientated. My reading and writing have nothing to do with escaping from who I am; on the opposite, they have all to do with owning who I am, including those opposites which are present within me at the same time, but aren’t normally presentable in society. Even now, I feel myself a little resistant to explicitly slot myself into a gender and age group in this post. The reason I do this is that I wish to contribute to a discussion (and hopefully to the further development) of cultural openness toward more fluid social identities and roles.
Equality. This is the first reason I usually voice to those who ask me, why slash? While reading and writing slash, I appropriate a male look on, and a male role in, the fictional relationships.
In m/m stories, the “no”s the characters have to face, the tribulations so to speak, run across instead of along the boundaries of gender. While the very presence of a female character guarantees that her fitness to be a hero will be questioned, the problems the characters must solve in m/m slash do not depend on their gender, which is a most welcome respite from everyday life.
It is much easier imo to fall into stereotypes while writing women than men. There is an obvious break between what women actually are and what they do, and what they are seen/acknowledged to be and to do. During the last 120 years at least (and certainly since WW1, when the sheer size of the disaster compelled women to stand in for absent men in many social roles), women have been learning to be proficient not only in traditionally female matters, but in most traditionally male ones. The parallel development of the range of activities performed by males seems to be under way, but certainly not as advanced. Men are explicitly or implicitly stygmatized for trespassing into women’s territory more often than women for trespassing into men’s territory: a phenomenon which imo has been until recent times severely underrated in gender studies. All the same, it still doesn’t seem to come natural to think of women as doers (or heroes in fiction), and when they are written as such, there seems to be a compulsion of the author to stress their feminine characteristics in an often stereotypical way, which does not manifest itself with well-written male characters.
Slash allows for verbalization of sex in a non-gendered, exhaustive way, impossible in more traditional contexts. It seems to me that women nowadays (just like men since forever) talk sex among them exhaustively, but in a very gendered way, which is not shared with the other gender(s) at any level. Within heterosexual couples, discussion of sex is less strongly gendered, but often not exhaustive. I have observed that it is still difficult to talk about sex with one’s sex partner, as both parties’ insecurities tend to surface and interfere.

References